As essential infrastructure development continues around Australia, there are more and more critical assets vulnerable to corrosion. Energy Source and Distribution talks with Select Solutions corrosion protection manager Alireza Kouklan about the impact of corrosion on energy networks, and how to maximise asset life.
What is the impact of corrosion on energy networks in Australia?
Australia’s diverse geography means we have widely distributed assets that are used to transport and store energy that face varying and often extreme environmental conditions. Many existing assets around the country are suffering from levels of deterioration due to corrosion; hence they are prematurely approaching the end of their life expectancy. All the while, new infrastructure projects are underway, with limited plans for protection against corrosion. In real terms this means extravagant cost in maintenance, repair and lost assets for our energy asset owners.
How can energy asset owners prevent the premature deterioration?
Research has highlighted the estimated annual cost of corrosion is around
3-4 per cent of GDP. With the application of corrosion prevention systems and education of asset owners in appropriate maintenance and intervention relating to corrosion, the same research indicates the costs of corrosion can be reduced by 30 per cent. Corrosion can be identified and prevented through inspection of infrastructure, applying coating and various prevention systems such as cathodic protection system to assets, which are vulnerable.
Why is there not more focus on corrosion protection in the energy industry?
Asset managers are typically subject to budgetary pressure with regard to maintenance programs. For this reason, there tends to be a focus on reactive maintenance, spending the limited available budget on the assets with the most immediate repair needs, rather than maintenance programs that will extend the life of the asset or save on significant repair costs in the future. Asset owners and managers who have successfully allocated part of their budget to prevention and proactive maintenance programs will ultimately reap the reward with improved asset life and lower costs of operation.
Where is corrosion protection currently being applied?
Select Solutions’ technical services division has around 20 skilled personnel providing corrosion protection services for clients in the electricity, gas and water industries. Our current projects include Cathodic Protection systems for the footings of towers in Victoria’s electricity transmission network, more than 3000km of steel pipeline for gas distribution networks and essential water infrastructure assets.
What challenges face the corrosion protection industry?
One of the biggest challenges at the moment is the lack of skilled and experienced resources in Australia, both at a field technician level and at a specialist engineer level. Currently, there is only one institute in Australia that provides corrosion short courses, and there are no corrosion engineering degrees available at all. Skilled resources must either be sourced from abroad or developed internally, leveraging existing expertise. The problem is compounded by an ageing workforce, creating a growing skills shortage at a time when there is increasing demand for these experts.
What are you doing to overcome these challenges?
Recognising there is both a growing demand for corrosion protection services and a widening gap in supply and demand of skilled technicians and engineers, Select Solutions has implemented its own training and mentoring program to develop a pipeline of skilled personnel. With four corrosion technician trainees working in our team, we’ve taken a long-term view of this challenge and are confronting it head-on.